(Inspired by an exercise from the book by Margret Geraghty “The five-minute writer: Exercise and inspiration in creative writing in five minutes a day” – http://www.amazon.com/Five-Minute-Writer-Exercise-inspiration-creative/dp/1845283392/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1372715967&sr=1-1&keywords=the+five+minute+writer– to write about the things to be happy about and how we experience them with all senses)
When reading a good book, especially a novel, I don’t really see the words. Supported by imagination, the words flow into pictures or rather into a movie, of which I am probably as much a director as the book’s authors is. And if the imaginative director has problems to realize the ideas of the text director, then the probability is high that at some point I, as a reader, might give up the reading.
The movie my imagination is creating has a clear sound, especially in dialogues. Although, I noticed an interesting phenomenon: when watching a movie based on a book I have read and liked before watching, the difference in voices between the movie’s and imagined characters bothers me much less than the difference in their appearance. In fact, I must say, I wouldn’t be able to describe the looks and the sounds of the characters in the book, only when seeing them filmed I can say that they should have looked differently, for example, taller or smaller, hair is darker or with more curls, complexion thinner or stronger etc. But here, I slipped again into vision.
How does a book taste? I have never eaten one, I must say, but while reading of good or bad food, my imagination does provide me on a taste feeling, especially when it is explicitly indicated as salty, bitter, sweet, bittersweet (in case of a positive feeling, I am thinking here of how a grapefruit tastes), strong – when related to coffee – and many other. Of course, the taste is different for every person. When I see the word chocolate, I taste dark chocolate of at least 75% cocoa in it. My husband tastes milk chocolate, because this is the right “chocolate way” for him.
Hmmm, there are two aspects to this.
First, there is the texture of a book. My personal favorite is paperback. I love the texture of pages: flexible but firm enough to bear wonders. And the cover of a paperback is close to the texture of its pages. I think that hard cover is too bold, but if there is no paperback yet out for a certain book I want to read, then hard cover is a compromise. I am still immune against e-books. I do have some on my computer. But I hardly read them. Not so long ago, I have printed one, so that I could read it on paper.
A sheet of paper with words on it has a magical attraction to me. I might be appalled or get bored after reading the printed words, but the first message that is sent by them to my brain and which I follow obediently is: “Read us!”
Another aspect of touch, while reading a book, is the sense that the books generate when being read. These can vary from chill or goose-bumps to hard and rough and soft and gentle.
Have you noticed that watching a movie does not generate the sense of a touch quite as strongly as the books do? The feelings of being happy, sad, scared, excited, terrified or overrun with joy are well transmittable visually, but if you see someone walking on the sand, you will not feel the sand texture yourself unless it is explicitly addressed or talked about, as for example a character asking another: “Can you feel the sand between your toes?”
“So, what is better than reading a book?” you may ask. I can only give a silly answer to this: “Reading more books!”
Oh, I almost forgot to write about the smell of a book. Like touch, I think there is the smell of the book itself and the smell its text generates in your imagination.
For the smell of a book, I have heard many times that the real book lovers enjoy the smell of the old books and they just adore going to libraries, especially to the rooms inhabited by ancient books. I feel differently about this. The smell of old books suffocates me, and I try to get distance from an old book or read it quickly, as though not to let it pull me in the past as an ancient old oil lamp of a Ginny.
Please, don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy books and texts written long ago, although I prefer the contemporary books and texts. The “old” books and texts should be printed on new and fresh paper, in order to make me come closer. So, you could say, I like looking at books from a new, fresh angle. Well, all right, I know, this bridge to something deeply wise and sophisticated didn’t work. But what is true is that I love the smell of the newly printed books. I don’t know why, but I do. And because of that, my heaven is not a library but a bookstore with new books coming fresh from print.
And now about the smell generated by reading: Can I describe it? No, I can’t. Can you? All I can say here is that most probably like hearing and touch, the generated smell is based on the smells (or sounds and textures for hearing and touch) I already know and they might vary very much from what the author has intended. I guess that is why, book clubs and communities will never disappear, simply because perception of a book is so different from person to person and we can get so many surprises when discussing a book we read with someone else.